Sealaska is pleased to announce the nomination of Joe Nelson as the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) board co-chair. Nelson has served as a Sealaska director since 2003 and has been board chair since 2014. Nelson has a long and distinguished career working as a practicing attorney and advocating for youth while working for the University of Alaska Southeast.
Nelson is a tribal member of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and Yakutat Tlingit Tribe. He grew up in a traditional lifestyle, grounded in his clan and cultural heritage, and he has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his Native people. His experience as Sealaska chairman and his understanding of Indigenous values uniquely qualify him for a role representing the Native voice in the state.
“Joe’s not only been working to unite our region, but he’s stepping up when asked, to work for our Native people of Alaska as a whole,” said Tlingit & Haida President Richard Peterson. “Joe knows when we’re together, we’re unbreakable.”
“We also strongly believe that Mr. Nelson is the right person with the necessary leadership capabilities and commitment to restore unity within AFN,” said Rosita Worl, Sealaska Heritage Institute president, in a letter to AFN. “He together with the Co-Chair Ana Hoffman, the board of directors, the president and staff can lead AFN in addressing the many critical issues facing the Native community.”
Nelson completed a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in American Indian studies from UCLA. He also earned a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School. He serves as a director on Spruce Root’s board and ex officio trustee for Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Joe is Teikweidí (Brown Bear Clan) from Yakutat and Kwaashk’i K̠wáan yádi (child of the Raven/Humpback Salmon Clan). His Tlingit name is Kaaxúxgu. Joe grew up commercial fishing and subsistence living in Yakutat.
Joe and his wife Crystal live in Juneau with children Job, Nora and Jude.